All posts in “HH Tips”

First Steps to a Toxin Free Life – Interview with Mindful Momma Tali Thomason

Awhile back I wrote my piece on Fear and Mindful Parenting when I realized I was becoming very overwhelmed with all the scary ingredients in the world among other things. One of the steps I made to feel less afraid and more educated was to interact more in the Mindful Mammas and Poppas group on Facebook. After all, I knew I wasn’t the first parent to be experiencing this and could get help from some veterans.

The first thing, like any project, is to make a plan and start with basics. We’ve begun eliminating toxic products in our home and replacing them with safer products for us and Arbor. One of the key people who has helped me is Leanna Long. She is the owner of Harmonious Households and I was able to ask her a few questions that I feel could benefit others as well.

What was the defining moment when you knew you had to make a change to the products you were using and foods you were eating?

About 5 years ago, at 27 years old I was going through some major health problems.  I felt dizzy, like room spinning dizzy quite often, I had intense heartburn all the time, along with extreme bloating, belching and brain fog.  Nothing I ate made me feel good, I couldn’t sleep, I was depleted of all energy and felt anxious and irritable.  I went to the doctor and saw specialists many times over the course of 2 years. Where they did a number of tests to see if I had a possible parasite, ulcer, IBS, diverculitis, Crohn’s disease and list goes on.  All tests came back negative.  The only thing came out of these 2 terrible years was a long list of ailments I did not have, an addiction to Xanax and the necessity to take almost 3x the normal dosage of Zantac twice a day.

After I had exhausted all avenues in Western medicine I knew I could not go on living this way and that I had to take things into my own hands.  I started seeing a naturopath and an Ayurvedic doctor who started me on the healing process. I got of the meds and due to help from the doctors and my own research I discovered I have a gluten intolerance. It was great to finally have an answer but I knew I had to change more than just my diet. I did some in depth research and learned more about how the toxins in our food, environment and beauty products affect our health and quality of life. Today I am happily living a toxin-free lifestyle and have made it my mission to share my knowledge with friends, family and clients.

You’ve shared your passion with others in your business Harmonious Households. What is the first change you recommend to families when it comes to getting the toxins out of their cleaning supplies?

The biggest hurdle when switching to toxic-free natural cleaners is the mental attachment to what we like, what we know works and what is convenient. In today’s busy world it can be tough getting around to cleaning, so when we do make time for it we don’t want to deal with something that might make the job tougher.  A great first step is to create a natural cleaner that is similar to your toxic cleaner.  For example I always loved the smell of Pin-Sol.  I know terrible right?! The toxic fumes in that product are enough to give anyone a headache, and a whole list of health problems but I absolutely loved the smell.  So I re-created a non-toxic all natural version that smells very similar and does a great job at cleaning.

Here’s my solution:

2 cups water

1 cup apple cider vinegar

5 drops tea tree oil

5 drops eucalyptus oil

Tea tree oil one of the strongest natural antiseptics.  It is also germicidal, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  Bonus! It kills mold and mildew and it gives you that clean scent!  Eucalyptus is a disinfectant, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial to name a few.  It is also known to support the respiratory system which is the exact opposite effect of what toxic cleaners do to your lungs.  Of course it smells great too!  Apple cider vinegar is a natural cleaning agent with many different uses.  It’s also an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-septic and anti-viral.  With also these “anti-bad stuff” properties you can feel safe knowing you are truly getting a deep clean.

How about the changes to the kitchen pantry? What are the first three ingredients we should eliminate from our diets?

This is a tough one because there are quite a few nasty ingredients food companies add to foods that are targeted specifically towards kids.  If I had to choose only three I’d go with:

  1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which is a neurotoxin that stimulates taste buds causing us to want to eat more and more. Ingesting this ingredient also comes with a host of side effect such as, headache, chest pain and heart palpitations. MSG can be found in popular kids’ foods like Cheetos or Pringle’s.

These last two encompass a lot of different ingredients. I might be cheating here but they are really important to know about because they effect behavior along with having many other nasty side effects.

  1. Artificial flavors/artificial sweeteners: (Aspartame, saccharin, sucralose) anything with the word artificial in it is not good for you or your kids. Side effects include, allergic and behavioral reactions, headache, dizziness, memory loss, carcinogen in animals.
  2. Preservatives, TBHQ- side effects: tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, worsens symptoms of ADHD, Sulfites- side effects: allergic reactions, especially for asthmatics. There are many more I’d like to add but for the sake of sticking to the question I’ll leave it at that. If your readers would like a full list, they can sign up for my newsletter and get a free Toxic Ingredient Grocery Guide at Harmonious Households.

When I’ve switched to all natural products for my home cleaning and personal hygiene they don’t always feel like they work as well. For example, my shampoo doesn’t lather like I expect. Even though I’ve been told that shampoos don’t need to lather to work it’s what I grew up with. Are these expected experiences linked to toxins?

Tali, I think it’s important to expect some differences when switching to non-toxic products. Like you said some things may not “feel” like they work as well but we have to remind ourselves that they do work just as well or even better when you think about it.  If you can shift your perspective from missing the way your shampoo lathered up, to loving the fact that you are putting clean, healthy products on/in your body and protecting your family from potential health hazards then you’ll quickly forget about all that lather.

Are there certain brands that are easier for people who are transitioning from the products they grew up with to the toxin free versions?

I always recommend making toxin-free cleaners at home as opposed to buying supposed “all natural” brands in the store because you know exactly what is in the product since you made it yourself.  Big companies can be sneaky by labeling their product as “all natural” when there are still some toxic ingredients in there like petrochemicals or things they replace the more well-known toxic ingredients with.

Beauty products can be a bit tougher to make at home and the attachment to these products can be harder to let go of.  Just as with replacing a cleaning product, decide what it is about a product.  It might be the smell or how it tingles your scalp.  Once you know what it is that you like try and replace it with a similar product that is toxin-free.  One brand I’d recommend is Dr. Bonner’s Organic Castile Soap. This line of products has so many different uses. I use the peppermint soap as a body wash, it tingles the body and even lathers up!

If you are looking for a great smelling natural deodorant I recommend LaVanilla deodorant.  Smells great and it’s very conditioning for the sensitive skin in the armpit.

I’ve often found that natural lotions can feel watery and leave my skin feeling dry.  After a lot of trial and error I’ve been very happy with Everyone Lotion.

If my readers want to hire you for a home and lifestyle makeover how can they reach you?

Thanks Tali.  They can reach me at harmonioushouseholds@gmail.com, find me on Facebook, follow me on Google+  or they can go directly to the Services Tab to get more details on the Healthy Home Makeover service I provide where I help families jump-start their way to a toxic-free lifestyle.

 

Innocence- Baby resting

5 Ways to Cultivate a Positive Self-image

Before we jump right into our children’s psyches, let’s run through a little psychology lesson so we can make sure we are all on the same page. After all, this psychology stuff can be confusing!

First off the subconscious/unconscious mind is a part of our consciousness that we are not consciously aware of.  It’s kind of like a broken record playing in the background of our heads, that repeats classics like, “you are not lovable,” “you are not valuable,” “you can’t do that,” “you aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough or good enough.”

Wow! That song could go on forever!

Now, this is not to say that our subconscious only supplies us with this negative way of thinking. It does many other awesome things like, helping us remember our phone number or where we live without having to consciously think about it but for the purpose of this post we are going to focus on where we get these negative thoughts and beliefs from.

We gain these subconscious thoughts from experiences we have in our lives.

These negative beliefs are solidified in childhood because as a child the conscious part of the mind, which includes critical thinking, reasoning, abstract thought and logic has not yet fully developed.  Which is why children believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy as much as they will believe they are a “bad kid,” if that’s what they are told.

Once a child’s brain develops more, they will be able to use their advanced thinking skills to determine that Santa Clause is not real but unlike Santa Clause “bad kids” are real and that label may stick in their subconscious mind for a long time.  Until…hopefully, like most of us they hit 30 and realize that these thoughts have been playing in the background of their mind their whole life, ultimately holding them back from fully acknowledging the many gifts they have to share with the world.

Of course these negative messages don’t necessarily come from parents. They come from experiences with friends at a young age or interactions with other adults. These rotten seeds of negative thought and self-talk are planted in childhood and then strengthened as we grow up through experiences with friends, our intimate relationships, our work environments and so on…

By building self-esteem and cultivating a positive self-image we can give our little seedlings strong, supportive roots to blossom into healthy, happy adults.

Top 5 tips for a positive self-image:

1.  Be mindful! Fully embrace the impact words and actions have. Think about how every experience and interaction children have is literally laying the blueprint for their beliefs about them self and the world around them.

2.  Highlight positive qualities often.  It’s easy to get stuck on the negative, especially when there are some negative behavior patterns but when we shift the focus to positive attributes kids want to live up to those behaviors even more.  This directly relates to the self-fulfilling prophecy theory.  Which states that there is a direct link between belief and behavior.  So, when we expect a child to act badly he will and conversely we will get same result when good behavior is expected.

3.  Create positive affirmations that to say together, before bed. Here’s an example mantra, “I am loved, I am safe, I am special, I am happy, I am grateful”.   Added bonus! Saying positive affirmations daily can help you add some self-love into your daily routine too.  Get creative and find what resonates with your family and it will become part of your nightly routine. Want more ideas for mantras?  Click here for a list of 100 positive affirmations.

4.  Either at dinner or before bed try sharing at least 5 things each family members is grateful for. People who practice gratitude have been shown to be more loving, forgiving, feel a greater sense of self-worth and are more hopeful about the future.  Who doesn’t want that?! For more info on the benefits of practicing gratitude check out this excellent article by Dr. Kristina Hibbert.

5.  When a child has negative experiences with friends or others it’s important to talk to them about these situations in a way that builds them back up.  Explain to them that it is sad when others make us feel bad but that it does not change how special or how loved they are.

The “big picture” goal is to stop those negative messages from being added to their internal playlist. We want to make the songs playing in the background of their minds as positive and uplifting as possible.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” ~Hodding Carter, Jr.

Have any tips to add ? Please share your thoughts!

 

Fight Parental Overwhelm – How self-care can be the cure

“It’s important to make someone happy, and it’s important to start with yourself” – Author unknown

In early motherhood it is a natural occurrence that your personal needs come second to your baby’s.  I mean who has time to mix in self-care when you barely even have time to sleep, let alone brush your hair and take a shower. But after you move through the sleepless night phase it’s time to change things up.  Let’s flip the script and really dive into the importance of putting your needs FIRST.

I know some of you are already cringing at the thought, thinking “what?? that’s selfish!” but ultimately everyone wins when you put yourself first. For some reason we have all been taught to think that putting yourself first is selfish. This is simply NOT true, it is actually  very mindful because when you are fulfilled you have more love to share with those around you. Just think about the in-flight safety instructions, who do they say to give oxygen to first? Yes, the answer is YOU.

This idea translates to every aspect of your life. If you are putting work first or your relationship first and not taking of your personal needs then those other aspects of your will suffer because you are running on empty.

The equation is simple: self-care + self-love = an abundance of love to share with those around you. Otherwise, you’re just hanging out in the negative.

Self-love means setting boundaries so that you can take the time you need for yourself. This can be on a large or small scale.  Meaning that there will most definitely be times when you need to let other’s needs in your family come first but that in general you continue to take the time to do the things that make you feel happy and whole as a person.  Think about this as inner management, you have to manage, organize and clean up the clutter  inside before you can take care of what’s on the outside.

Over the years I have been inside many different family units.  I gained a unique perspective from observing the inner workings of each family.   I learned many things along the  way but one major component stuck out for me, which was that many women feel it is their duty as a mother to put their children first.  I saw first hand how this affected their relationships with their husbands and also gave the children a great sense of entitlement. Often times I saw a sense of defeat in the dads.  It was as if they did not feel that they had special place in their own home.  The environment revolved around mother and child, this ultimately  left the dads floundering on the outside of the family unit.

Now of course, every family is different but the lesson here is in the importance of nurturing your relationships so that you can effectively share your love with everyone.

By putting yourself first and your partner second, your little’s will then receive more love all around and you will have a happier, more connected family unit.

6 Ways to Add More YOU Into Your Daily Life:

1. Write down a list of things that make you feel good.  Maybe dancing, singing, being silly etc. whatever it is try to do at least one of those things a day.

2. Think about your strengths as a mom and build on them. Whether your strength lies in being a stay at-home mom or working mom, think about how you most effectively operate so that you can maximize quality time with your children.

3.  Remember it’s ok to have help! If you allow all the pressures of raising your children to fall on your shoulders it will ultimately become a load you can no longer bear.  Find a babysitter leave the kids with

4.  Get at least 20 mins of ME time in everyday. Try taking a bath, reading, maybe doing yoga. Whatever it is you enjoy turn it into a daily ritual.

5.  Try and turn menial tasks into expression of your love for your family. This is especially important for those moms who feel they don’t spend enough quality time with their family. Transform things like folding laundry, doing dishes, cooking, into a more meaningful task.  While you’re at it get your family members involved so it’s a group activity and get more quality time in.

6.  Let go of the guilt and the idea that putting your needs first is selfish!  Remember when you let your light shine, your children will shine even brighter.

How do you get in your self-care?  Please share any rituals you have that help you nurture yourself!

 

 

Setting Boundaries – 10 Ways to Create Peace at Home

Setting boundaries is one of the key elements in having a peaceful home.  The earlier you start setting those boundaries the better.

In the beginning your baby’s needs, (i.e. when they are hungry, tired or need a diaper change), determine your schedule and every second of your life.  Slowly moving toward a feeding/napping routine for your child can be the start of setting these boundaries.  By being consistent in your actions and setting limits, you can begin to shape your child’s expectations and understanding of how you will interact with them.

Think about the behaviors you are reinforcing, are they positive or negative? (Want even more info on positive reinforcement?  check out, The Power of Positive Reinforcement.)

Are you reinforcing undesirable behavior?

A good example of this pattern, that I often see with  coaching clients, is the challenge of getting a child to sleep through the night.  There is no doubt that this can be a painful, tiring process. Any parent that hears his or her child crying wants to soothe their baby. The trick is to do this in a way that doesn’t result in creating expectations for your child that are dependent on actions you do not want to continue to carry out – like missing sleep!

Consistently going into the room and giving your child a bottle, picking them up or rocking them back to sleep, (of course depending on age) creates a strong expectation for your child that when they cry you will come and fulfill their needs. Action (child crying) + reaction (parent fulfilling need) = reward (reinforcement of behavior).

It’s so important to teach your little one how to self soothe. This is the building blocks for a child to grow into a self-sufficient, respectful, caring individual with a strong sense of emotional awareness.

Setting boundaries is truly providing bumper pads for your child’s entire life. Often, parents feel it’s easier to just give in at the moment than deal with the crying o whining. Try and remember the bigger picture. Think about what kind of teenager you are creating. Encourage them to use their words to communicate their needs.

The key to setting boundaries

The key to setting boundaries is to stop being reactive in the moment and to start being mindful of how you are speaking. It’s important to be first be calm then be firm and direct. No drill sergeant’s allowed. Be authoritative in your parenting, listen to your children and allow for discussion. Be consistent and fair in your actions while placing limitsconsequences and expectations on their behavior.

In doing this your children will intrinsically understand where the boundaries are and there will no longer be a  constant battle to be in control of your own home.  Once again you will be able to breathe, finding overall, you have more meaningful interactions with each other.

Harmonious Households Top 10 Tips for setting boundaries:

1.  Work with your spouse/significant other as a united front.

2.  Stop and take a breath before reacting. Be mindful of your response.

3.  Come down to your child’s level (literally).

4.  Be consistent; don’t be a pushover.

5.  Be firm and direct, not angry or emotional.

6.  Starting in toddlerhood offer choices, For example, “You can put on your shoes, or I’ll put them on for you, you choose”.

7.  Put a time limit on things. Counting to 3 works like a charm!

8.  Allow for discussion as your children get older, don’t act as if, “It’s my way or the highway.”

9.  Remember that children may push boundaries but that they thrive in an environment that has boundaries.

10.  Most importantly, remind yourself that your little one’s will not hate you because you set boundaries.  Let go of that guilt!

NOT setting boundaries causes more harm than setting them.

What tips have I left out?  Please comment below to add yours to the list!

– If setting boundaries is something you are new to as a parent, coaching can be very helpful.  Often as parents it can be difficult to get out of old patterns and implement changes.  That’s where coaching comes in! If you feel stuck in a parenting rut, check out the About Family Coaching page for more details.

 

Jump Aboard the Health Food Train

Feeding your little monsters can be extremely frustrating especially when you have picky eaters who only want to eat unhealthy carb-filled snacks and meals. You may often times find yourself wanting to implement a healthier diet but fighting that battle seems tougher than winning it.  As a whole our society has been brainwashed by the food industry into thinking that foods are healthy that are not.

Of course we would assume that products that display packaging saying “low-fat”, “no-sugar”, “all-natural”, are good for not only ourselves to be ingesting but great for kids.  Well truth is that hidden behind many of these labels are the most unhealthy ingredients of all.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a microwave queen, canned veggies, fast food type of girl.  Until I personally experienced the repercussions of eating this way. This nutritionally deficient, no doubt GMO filled diet left me feeling totally depleted of energy, dizzy, having constant, sleep/life disrupting indigestion for over two years.  During this time I spent a lot of time at my doctor’s office, in fact we became good friends.  He suggested that maybe I have an ulcer, then it was possibly a parasite or maybe even Crohns Disease.  The list of possible diagnoses went on and on and so did the tests, all to turn up negative.  I was given drugs that only masked my symptoms which I gained a tolerance to only to have to up my dosage.

After seeing specialists and depleting all possible causes of the symptoms (according to Western medicine that is), I was experiencing, I began to feel hopeless.  It was as if people thought my health problems were all in my head and that was something I just could not accept.  So, I decided to take things into my own hands and start my own research.  I began talking with Naturopathic and Ayurvedic doctors and this is when I started to learn about the negative effects of gluten.

Totally removing something from your diet is not easy, especially when it is a staple as bread products are in most American diets.  There is also an emotional and social attachment to it is as well. I knew what I needed to do but it is even harder to let go of all the attachments to gluten without something stating that you cannot eat it.  So after a little more research I discovered that there was a blood test to determine gluten intolerance.  I quickly made an appointment with my doctor friend and after a week I finally got a positive test result.

Funny, I doubt there will be any other time in my life where I actually hope to get a positive test result stating there is something wrong with me.  Needless to say after about 6 months of being gluten-free and re-balancing my system (by taking Betaine HCL because the drugs they had me on depleted my stomach acid) I was back to feeling like myself.

Now this is not to say that everyone who eats a gluten filled diet will end up with a gluten allergy.  In fact the research on what causes a gluten intolerance or allergy is limited but like Hippocrates said, “let thy food by thy medicine”.  There is great wisdom behind this… If we are filling ourselves and our children with nutritionally deficient food then we are not treating our bodies as we should be.

Nourishing your body from the inside out and modeling that for your children is a sure-fire way to improve health and overall well-being. Making an effort to move towards a less processed more veggie filled diet is a mindful decision that will instill healthy eating habits, ensure your children are getting proper nutrition and motivate your children to make healthy decisions as they grow up.

Here are my top 6 tips on getting your children to cut the carbs and up the greens:

1.  Don’t force veggies and fruit on your kids.  We all remember something our parents forced us to eat and most likely we still don’t like that food.  Let your children think it’s their idea by getting them involved with grocery shopping and cooking.

2.  Try to stick to a 5 ingredient limit for packaged foods.  Just think, “the more ingredients, the more processed the food”.

3.  Try to replace pretzels, bars and all those fun shaped kids crackers with a fruit or veggie of your kids’ choice at least once a day.

4.  Don’t assume you can trust what the label says.  Remember, “all-natural”, “low-fat” and “sugar-free” don’t necessarily mean Healthy.  Arm yourself with the knowledge to make informed decision on what you buy.  Here’s a great article on 11 Food Label Lies.

5.  We all know eating totally organic can be expensive.  Try sticking to the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 rule to save some money.  This is a list of fruits and veggies that should be organic and ones that don’t have to be…check out the link above for more information.

6.  Check out these great documentaries on healthy eating:  Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Hungry for a Change, Food Inc., Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

HH Family Activity: Make it a movie night! Choose a documentary to watch with you kids and have a discussion afterwards.  Come up with ideas about how to improve your families nutrition and get everyone on board with the health food train!

HH Family Activity:  Make grocery shopping a hands on learning experience for your little’s.  Talk with them about them different fruits and veggies, let them hold them and pick out what they want to try.  Ask them if they want to help make a salad and I bet you will get a resounding “yes!”.

 

Happy Eating!

 

 

 

3 mindful ways to add quality to your conversations

Running through the same every day routine with little ones can become monotonous.  You wake up, wake the kids up (or the other way around:) you get everyone ready, make breakfast and rush out the door.   Then, the  same every day routine kicks in after school…pick the kids up, drive home, make dinner, bath-time and then off to bed.

Well, the key to making this everyday routine not so bland is to spice up how you interact with your family.  Although the routine remains the same, conversation with your children are where you can add some pizzazz to make those mundane moments feel more exciting.

Think about it!  The same questions and most always get the same responses.  Some of the best examples of these lack luster questions are, “how was your day?” or, “how was school?”, “did you have fun on the playground?” which usually gets the same old one word response (what I like to call robot talk), “good”, “fine”, “yes”, “no”, “uh-huh”.

This leaves no room for any actual conversation.  In fact it puts up a communication barrier because it begins to feel like pulling teeth to get any more information out of them.  You and your kiddos are left feeling disconnected from each others’ lives and often times this communication gap just widens as kids get older.

Conversation is defined as: The spoken exchange of thoughts, opinions and feelings.  There is clearly none of that going on in the robot chat described above.  The following tips will help you lay the ground work for your family to begin communicating in a way that lends itself less to robot talk and more to real, quality conversations.

How to have more quality conversations:

1.  Ask Caring Questions that let your children know you truly care about who they are and how they feel.

a.  Instead of asking, “how was your day?”  try, “how did you feel today?”.  This gets them in touch with their feelings.  Emotional awareness is a great skill to have and the earlier they can understand their different emotions the better chance they have of being in control them.  You may need to give them some examples so ask if they felt lonely? excited? proud? happy? or sad?

b.  Instead of asking, “did you play outside today?” be specific about things.  Take something you know that matters to them and if that happens to be the monkey bars ask, “how did you do on the monkey bars today?” Being specific let’s them know you are paying attention to things that matter in their world and therefore they feel they matter.

2.  Gratitude Sharing – Before or after dinner have each person share something that they are thankful for that happened that day.  Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase levels of happiness, energy, empathy, optimism and overall well-being AND opens the family dynamic up to allow for REAL conversations.

3. Discuss Your Family Values – This is often something that parents assume is subconsciously understood by what they model as parents and expectations they set for their children.   The truth is that displaying the significance of your value system in this way does have an impact on your children but it is also super important  to have a discussion about what your values are as well.

Family Activity: Have each member of your family write down something that they feel is an important value to have.  Then create a Family Values Board and a few times a week have everyone share an example of how they carried out one of those values in their daily lives.

It may feel somewhat awkward to have these types of conversation in the beginning but that is totally normal.  As a society we interact with each other on a surface level.  Having truly meaningful and mindful interactions is something we have to cultivate and there is no better place to start than at home with our loved ones.

How do  you develop quality interactions in your home?  Please share your tips below!

 

 

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

If you watched Mike and Bob Bryan the famous twins who won Wimbledon last year then you’d know they give off a positive, caring vibe towards each other on the court.  Having over 62 professional titles the Bryan brothers are no doubt talented.  Part of this may be due to the fact that their parents Kathy and Wayne never allowed the boys to play each other in tournaments.   When they met in junior tournaments they had the boys alternate, forfeiting to each other to cut down on sibling rivalry and unhealthy competitive behavior. Instead Kathy and Wayne focused on building each child’s strengths through the power of positive reinforcement.   In fact Wayne went on to write a book called, “How to Raise a Champion in Athletics, Arts and Academics.”

The theory behind positive reinforcement called Operant Conditioning was first developed by B.F. Skinner in 1938. He conducted an experiment where he placed rats into boxes with levers which released food when the rat accidentally ran into it.  Quickly the rats learned to go directly to the lever when placed in the box.  The consequence/reward of receiving the food when the rat pressed the lever, guaranteed that the rat would repeat this behavior every time it was put into the box (McLeod, 2007).

Just as Kathy and Wayne used this strategy to guide their boys into success, positive reinforcement can be used to change your child’s behavior in both minor and major ways.

Behavior charts are a great example of using positive reinforcement to change your child’s behavior.  Typically behavior charts are best recommended for use at age 3 but I’ve used charts with children at 2 1/2 with great success.  You can use a chart for any behavior that you would like to change or one you’d like to encourage.  In my coaching practice I have recommended the use of charts for things like sleeping through the night, not having a melt down when mommy leaves and of course potty charts and chore charts. This system works just as the reward of food worked with the rats, except in this case the reward is the sticker and of course we’re talking about our precious little’s and not rats:)

A few HH tips on behavior charts:

1.  Be creative together – have your child help make the chart and actively talk with them about using it.  Example:  “This is your potty chart, when you go potty you get a sticker”, “Now Tommy tell mommy how you get a sticker for your chart?”.

2.  Make it special – You may already have some stickers lying around the house but for the reward to feel special it’s important to truly make it feel that way.  Plan an outing to pick out “special stickers” for your child’s chart.  Make sure that those stickers are only used for the chart.  This will give your child more motivation in wanting to earn their “special sticker”.

3.  Be consistent– Take the time to allow your child to choose a sticker right after they have displayed the positive behavior.  If you wait the reward will not have the same effect.

4.  Don’t get chart happy – Having success using this approach can lead to the idea that this will work great for everything.  Too many charts at one time is no good.  This desensitized the reward and reduces their motivation because the child is getting too many rewards at one time.  Stick to one chart at a time or at the utmost two.

5.  Praise and communication – These two components are key in changing a negative behavior pattern.  As adults it is easy to subconsciously get caught in the idea that your child is too young to understand certain concepts so we just don’t talk about it.  Well the truth is kids are smarter than we think.  Engaging in active conversation with them by making statements and asking questions get’s them to feel more comfortable about situations and transitions.  Praise is always necessary in guiding them to continue on the path to more positive behaviors.

6.  Be patient –  It can take 3 weeks to change a behavior pattern so be patient, follow these tips, add in some coaching support to get you through the tough times and you will be sure to see positive results.

Below is an example of a Happy Day Chart used with a client.

The little guy (2 and 1/2-year-old), got a sticker for not crying when his mommy went to work and the nanny came.  On first use of the chart along with actively talking with him about the transition, he no longer cried in the mornings.

Example:

 

McLeod, S. A. (2007). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

 

Developmental Milestones

As a new parent it can be both a happy and sad moment when you see your baby hit a new milestone.  On one hand you feel proud of your baby for their accomplishment but sadness that they are growing up too fast.  You may also feel somewhat frustrated when you have seen them crawl or walk on occasion but in general they tend to default to the easier option.  This same frustration can also translate to things like wanting your child to hold their own bottle or potty training.

The thing to keep in mind is that although, there is a general age range in which your child should be hitting these milestones every child is different and they will transition when they are ready.

As the parent this may make you feel useless, you want to help or feel that you are encouraging your child in some way.  Well, the truth is that how quickly your child conquers a milestone like walking is based on their own confidence and motivation.  As their parent all you can really do is increase their confidence by praising them and ensuring they have a safe accessible environment to practice their new-found skill.

Here are a few HH tips on how to feel valuable in aiding your child’s developmental milestones.

1.  Do some Feng Shui – Look around your house, are there obstacles on the floor that are making it hard for your child to crawl or walk?

2.  Declutter  – Clutter equals stress.  A baby will feel overwhelmed if there are too many toys on the floor or in their room.  Chose at most 2-3 toys for your baby to play with at one time.

3.  Organize! Organize! Organizer! –  Once you’ve decluttered start organizing.  An organized home creates a peaceful home.  Put things in accessible easy places that will help your home run smoother..i.e. extra socks by the door, diapers and wipes on each floor. (Check out Harmonious Households Organized Living and Pre-baby Home Consultation services).

4.  Land your helicopter– Helicopter parenting is not good for you or your child.  You may want to be involved with every little aspect of your baby’s life but this can be smothering to your child. Being overly anxious and encouraging them too much can actually cause them to regress in their development.   Take a second to relax and have a few deep breaths.  Enjoy what your child is doing now and trust that in their own time they will move on to the next milestone.